Modes of operation and “designated zones”

Q1:

May operators of catering premises change the mode of operation of their premises, for example, from Type B to Type C, after choosing and declaring their mode of operation?

A1:

Pursuant to the specification and directions issued by the Government under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F), catering premises may change their mode of operation after they have met the relevant requirements.

Q2:

For catering premises with more than one “designated zones”, may the operator change one “designated zone” to another from time to time, such as changing part of Zone C to Zone B during lunch time or changing Zone B to Zone C after 10:00 p.m., in order to suit operational needs

A2:

Yes, but it should be noted that catering premises in Type C or Type D Mode of Operation must display at its entrance a floor plan meeting the specified specifications for differentiating and identifying the different “designated zones”.  The floor plan may be changed from time to time having regard to operational needs, but will take effect only after it has been displayed.

Q3:

Which “designated zone(s)” may be delineated in Type C catering premises?

A3:

Catering premises meeting the relevant requirements and choosing Type C Mode of Operation may delineate “Designated Zone C” and “Designated Zone B” within the premises.

Q4: Which “designated zone(s)” may be delineated in Type D catering premises?
A4:

Catering premises meeting the relevant requirements and choosing Type D Mode of Operation may delineate “Designated Zone D”, “Designated Zone C” and “Designated Zone B” within the premises.

Q5:

For catering premises choosing Type D Mode of Operation with “Designated Zone C”, may the operator change the whole “Designated Zone C” to “Designated Zone D” after 12:00 midnight?

A5:

Yes.  For catering premises choosing Type D Mode of Operation (even if “Designated Zone D” and “Designated Zone C” are operated before 12:00 midnight and only “Designated Zone D” are operated after 12:00 midnight), the whole premises are still required to meet the relevant requirements, i.e. all staff involved in the operation of the premises must have fulfilled the requirements of completing the COVID-19 vaccine course.  The operator must ensure that in “Designated Zone D”, no more than 12 persons are seated together at one table and at least two-thirds of the customers at each table have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine; and also ensure that all customers scan the “LeaveHomeSafe” venue QR code with the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app on their mobile phones before entering that Zone.  The operator must display a floor plan that could clearly delineate different “designated zones” at the entrance of the premises at all times.  In other words, if the whole premises change to operate only “Designated Zone D”, a relevant floor plan must be displayed at the entrance of the premises first, before the change can take effect.

Q6: Is live performance allowed in catering premises?
A6:

Live performance is allowed in catering premises operating in Type D Mode of Operation and bars/pubs, subject to compliance with the conditions that all performers have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and necessary infection control measures are adopted.  The measures include performers wearing masks at all times, keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between each performer as far as feasible, setting up an effective partition between the performers and audience/customers within the premises and no mingling between performers and audience/customers within the premises etc.

Q7: If a catering premises has previously registered on the vaccine bubble thematic webpage of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) as operating in Type C Mode of Operation, is re-registration required after the latest directions take effect on 24 June 2021?
A7:

If the registered mode of operation remains unchanged, it is not necessary for the catering premises to re-register again.  Re-registration on the vaccine bubble thematic webpage is required only if there is any change (e.g. changing the Mode of Operation from Type C to Type D).

Q8: What is the maximum number of persons for a banquet activity held in a catering premises operating in Type D Mode of Operation?  How to determine if the requirement of “two-thirds of persons must have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine” is met?
A8:

Within “Designated Zone D” of a catering premises operating in Type D Mode of Operation, the number of persons participating in any one banquet activity at any one time may not exceed 240 persons.  The requirement that “at least two-thirds of persons must have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine” is to be calculated with reference to the total number of participants for a banquet activity (disregarding decimals, if any), and there is no need to fulfil that two-thirds ratio in respect of each table.

Requirements relating to receiving vaccination

Q9:

Some staff members of catering premises are unfit to receive vaccination because of health reasons.  Are there any exemption arrangements for them?

A9:

Staff members (including live performers) of catering premises who are unfit to receive COVID-19 vaccination because of health reasons must submit a declaration form and produce a medical certificate to their employers.  In addition, they have to undergo a polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid test for COVID-19 once every 7 days and the samples of the tests must be taken through combined nasal and throat swabs (CNTS) (hereafter referred to as “alternative measure of CNTS virus testing once every 7 days”).  At present, there are 21 community testing centres and numerous mobile specimen collection stations providing CNTS sampling services across the territory.  For details, please visit the webpage at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html.

Q10:

For catering premises with only half of the staff members vaccinated, may half of the premises be delineated as “Designated Zone B” and the other half as “Designated Zone C”, with the unvaccinated staff working only in Zone B?

A10:

No.  For catering premises choosing Type C Mode of Operation, even if both “Designated Zone B” and “Designated Zone C” are delineated, the premises as a whole must still comply with the requirements applicable to Type C premises.  That is to say, all staff members must have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and those who are unfit to receive vaccination due to health reasons must adopt the alternative measure of CNTS virus testing once every 7 days.  Catering premises that fail to comply with the aforesaid requirements fully may only choose either Type A or Type B Mode of Operation.

Q11:

May a staff member unvaccinated but with a proof of booking of vaccination and a negative test result work in Type C premises?

A11:

No.  As the risk of COVID-19 transmission within catering premises is high comparatively, the Government, in adjusting social distancing measures with vaccine bubble as the basis, requires that all staff members of Type C premises must have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before the restrictions on business operations may be relaxed.

Q12: Are staff members of Type C premises having received the first dose of a vaccine still required to undergo regular testing until 14 days have passed after the second dose is given?
A12:

In respect of Type C premises, all staff members must have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and those who are unfit to receive vaccination due to health reasons must adopt the alternative measure of CNTS virus testing once every 7 days.  The current directions are silent on requiring staff members of Type C premises to undergo regular virus testing after receiving the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

QR code scanner for verification of vaccination records and COVID-19 testing records

Q13: How can the vaccination records and the COVID-19 test records of customers be verified when staff members of catering premises are not entitled to obtain their identity cards?  Will the privacy of customers be infringed?
A13:

Operators of premises are required to download and install the mobile app “QR Code Verification Scanner” provided by the Government on the FEHD’s vaccine bubble thematic webpage and at Google Play Store, Apple App Store and Huawei AppGallery for use in verifying the authenticity of the QR codes of vaccination records or testing results of customers.  Operators of premises properly using that scanner would have been able to fulfil the requirement of performing due diligence check.  As the scanner will not display personal data of customers, one does not need to worry about infringing the privacy of customers.

If a customer is unable to produce the QR code, he/she may still choose to produce paper copy or E-health version of vaccination record / the SMS notification of testing result for due diligence check by operators of premises.

Q14:

How can we obtain the “QR Code Verification Scanner” mobile app provided by the Government for catering premises?

A14:

The scanner has been uploaded to Google Play Store, Apple App Store and Huawei AppGallery.  It can be downloaded and installed on smart phones of various operating systems.

Q15: What are the skill sets to note in using the “QR Code Verification Scanner” mobile app provided by the Government?
A15:

The “QR Code Verification Scanner” mobile app may not be able to recognise the information stored in the QR code if ambient lighting is insufficient, there is reflection from the QR code or the scanning phone and the QR code are too far away from each other.  Users may first turn on the flashlight on the phone (at the top right corner of the scanner) for better scanning effects.  If there is reflection from the QR code, users may tilt the scanning phone inwards or outwards.  When scanning, the phone should be held close enough to the QR code (the QR code should take up about one third of the screen).

“LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app

Q16: Some children or elders do not have a smart phone.  How can they comply with the requirement of using the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app which is applicable to certain premises?
A16:

Persons aged under 16 who are accompanied by an adult in entering catering premises are not required to use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app or complete the personal information registration form, as the accompanying adult has already fulfilled the applicable “LeaveHomeSafe” requirement.  For persons under the age of 16 without an accompanying adult and persons aged 65 or above, if they wish to enter “Designated Zone C” or “Designated Zone D” and are unable to use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app, they must register their personal information on the specified forms.

This special arrangement is only applicable to catering premises.  For some scheduled premises (bars, karaoke establishments, nightclubs, commercial bathhouses, etc.), customers of all ages must use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app, and the alternative of filling in their personal information on registration form is not available.

Q17: Are customers ordering takeaways only required to scan the “LeaveHomeSafe” venue QR code of catering premises?
A17:

As customers ordering takeaways only do not take off their masks and their stay at the catering premises will be shorter than that of dine-in patrons, it is acceptable not to subject them to scanning the “LeaveHomeSafe” venue QR code of the catering premises or registering their information.

Q18:

Is it necessary for patrons who dine in outside seating accommodation of catering premises to scan its “LeaveHomeSafe” venue QR code?

A18:

Outside seating accommodation is part of the catering premises, and hence before entering outside seating accommodation, patrons have to use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app or register their personal information pursuant to the relevant requirement.

Q19:

For catering premises providing self-produced forms for customers who do not use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app for registering their personal information, is hardcopy the only format allowed?  May online or electronic forms be used?

A19:

Catering premises may use the specified form downloaded from the COVID-19 thematic website and the FEHD’s vaccine bubble thematic webpage or a self-made form containing the content in that standard form for a customer who has not used the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app to register his/her name, contact number and the date and time of his/her visit.  The written or electronic records must be kept by the catering premises for 31 days, and be produced to law enforcement officers whenever required.  If that form is an electronic form, it should be digitally signed by the person completing the form.

Others

Q20: If customers are non-compliant, will the operators of the catering premises and the customers both be punished?
A20:

Under Cap. 599F of the Laws of Hong Kong, non-compliance with certain social distancing measures in catering premises may involve provision of false statements by customers (e.g. provision of false information or production of the vaccination record of another person) and/or omission of due diligence check by operators of premises.  For the former, a person who furnishes false information will be criminally liable.  As for the latter, operators of premises are required under statute to perform due diligence check.  Law enforcement officers will consider whether operators of premises have checked that customers have duly filled in all particulars, have used the “QR Code Verification Scanner” mobile app provided by the Government to verify the vaccination records of customers, etc.  Whether the information is a false statement will be judged by law enforcement officers.  During the teething stage of implementing the legislative requirements, the Government will normally step up publicity and education to enable the trade and the public to have a clear understanding of the requirements.  Thereafter, we will also have regard to the actual situation in taking enforcement actions.  There is no need to worry if all reasonably practicable measures have been taken to comply with relevant requirements.

Q21: Do enforcement officers of the FEHD have the power to check the vaccination records of staff members or customers of catering premises?
A21:

According to section 12(1)(e) of Cap. 599F of the Laws of Hong Kong, an authorised officer may, for ascertaining whether any requirement or direction in relation to catering business or scheduled premises issued under Cap. 599F is being or has been complied with, require any person to provide the officer with the information in the person’s possession which the officer considers necessary.  As the authorised officers referred to under Cap. 599F, the FEHD staff do have the power to require staff members or customers of catering premises to provide their vaccination records for inspection if deemed necessary.

Q22:

What information has to be included in the medical certificate as proof of being medically unfit for vaccination on health grounds?

A22 :

A template of the medical certificate as proof of being medically unfit for COVID-19 vaccination can be downloaded from the Government’s website “Together, We Fight the Virus!” (https://www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/cap599FG_forms.html) for reference by medical practitioners in providing records of medical proof for members of the public who are unfit to receive vaccination.  A link to the template is also available on the FEHD’s vaccine bubble thematic webpage.  For enquiries or comments on the template of the medical certificate, please contact the Department of Health.

Q23:

Will catering premises be held legally liable for failing to comply with the relevant requirement relating to ensuring that patrons have scanned the “LeaveHomeSafe” venue QR code with their mobile phones?

A23:

If catering premises operators breach the relevant requirements under Cap. 599F of the Laws of Hong Kong, they may be liable to prosecution, and upon conviction, to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.  In addition, catering premises must, on identification of the contravention by law enforcement officers, adopt corresponding measures to reduce the risk of transmission starting from the subsequent day, including shortening the dine-in period to 5:59 p.m. and imposing a restriction to allow no more than 2 persons to be seated together at one table, for a period of 14 days.

Q24:

If customers use faked “LeaveHomeSafe” apps, will catering premises operators who have been deceived be penalised as well? What could they do to avoid being implicated?

A24:

Pursuant to Cap. 599F of the Laws of Hong Kong, customers providing false information and operators failing to make due diligence check, in purported compliance with certain social distancing measures in catering premises, are to be regarded as not having compiled with the direction.

To protect themselves from being deceived by faked “LeaveHomeSafe” apps, catering premises operators may refer to Q&A 44 (“How may venue operators easily distinguish a genuine “LeaveHomeSafe” app from a fake one?”) of the FAQs on the “LeaveHomeSafe” website of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (https://www.leavehomesafe.gov.hk/_files/docs/Verify_fake_app_e.pdf).  If operators detect customers using faked “LeaveHomeSafe” apps in order to gain admission to their catering premises through dishonest means, they should refuse entry of such customers to the premises; and could even refer such cases to the Police for follow-up actions. 

During inspections to catering premises, frontline law enforcement officers of the FEHD or relevant departments will make their judgement based on the investigation results and all relevant factors.  Only if there is sufficient evidence will they issue fixed penalty notices to the customers or/and summons to the operators of the premises concerned.  Whether or not operators of premises have performed due diligence check is determined on a case by case basis, having regard to the actual circumstances of each individual case; and it would be difficult to generalise.  There is no need to worry on the part of the catering trade, if all reasonably practicable measures have been taken to comply with the relevant requirements.